Photography

Florence Sarah Levin

July 13, 1925 ~ December 12, 2021 (age 96)

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Florence S. Levin of Naples, Florida died peacefully of natural causes on Sunday, December 12, 2021 while in rehabilitation at her retirement community's skilled nursing facility. Optimistic and forward looking, Florence led a full, fortunate life. She enjoyed good health, found lasting love, and achieved her most important personal goals. The example she set was an inspiration to neighbors, friends, and family.

Among Florence’s core values were lifelong learning and trust in science. Though not religiously observant, Florence identified with her Jewish heritage and Jewish wisdom, values, and humor. She liked to tell the old “when does life begin?” joke in which a rabbi states that in Judaism, life begins when the last child leaves home and the dog dies.

Florence was born on July 13, 1925 in Columbus and grew up in the southeast Ohio coal-mining and railroad village of Corning. She was the second of three children born to Marcel Levion—an immigrant from Alsace-Lorraine—and Bertha Eichenbaum Levion, a Cleveland-born chemist and educator. In Corning, Bertha and Marcel owned and operated the dry goods store. For many years, the Levions were the only Jewish family there.

Like her mother and sister Harriet before her, Florence earned her bachelor’s degree from Western Reserve University (now part of Case Western Reserve University), majoring in biology and chemistry. Halfway through college, she spent the summer of 1945 in New York City, where she took biology and chemistry classes at Columbia University. Early that summer through her sister and brother-in-law, Florence also met Leo Levin, a remarkable individual eight years her senior. They dated until Florence returned to Ohio for her junior year. With great joy, the couple married on September 22, 1946. Florence took her senior year at Columbia, while Leo attended law school. During their time in New York City, Florence welcomed the opportunity to work in the Columbia research lab that was developing the antibacterial ointment bacitracin. The project ultimately led to Florence’s co-authorship of an article published in 1949 in Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine (“Distribution of Bacitracin in the Body”).

Leo finished his law degree in 1949 and began his legal career in Minneapolis. By 1954, the couple and their two children, Mark and Nancy, had moved to Mansfield, Ohio, where Florence and Leo lived for the next four decades. During the 1960s, Florence taught biology, first at Mansfield Senior High School, then at the two-year Mansfield branch campus of The Ohio State University. In 1975, she completed a master’s degree in biology education from the University of Akron. That fall, she began teaching biology at nearby Ashland College (since 1989, Ashland University) as a part-time instructor. In 1980, she was promoted to full-time assistant professor.

At Ashland, Florence developed a reputation for teaching demanding but well-organized courses, which garnered positive student evaluations and attracted new majors. She served on search committees, advised and mentored majors, and developed new courses to help students qualify for acceptance into medical school and allied health programs. Her mentoring of young people extended beyond Ashland College with her selection in 1987 by the Ohio Academy of Science as one of 115 “exemplary” Ohio women in science, engineering and mathematics.

Throughout her years at Ashland, Florence’s husband proved supportive: Leo read her science journals and listened as she described her day. He also put on a “Husband” name tag at Florence’s conferences in order to forestall questions about his “field.” Florence’s work strengthened the quality and reputation of Ashland University’s pre-professional programs. In 1993, Florence retired, having attained the level of full professor despite lacking a Ph.D. She loved her years at Ashland and considered them the pinnacle of her career.

At the end of 1993, Florence and Leo left Mansfield to move to Naples. There, they enjoyed ten happy years together. Leo joined an astronomy club; Florence joined a piano group and practiced often, to Leo’s delight. There were many visits from Mark and Nancy and their families. Young Kenneth and Rachel particularly enjoyed grandchildren-only visits, which brought out a new facet of Grandma’s personality—her indulgent side. Shortly after relocating to Florida, Florence taught part-time at a community college, first in Ft. Myers, then in Naples. Later, in her eighties, she tutored high school biology students and mentored at-risk students. Additionally, through Florida Gulf Coast University’s adult education program, she periodically lectured on innovative technologies in biology and medicine. Florence was excited to learn about new advances in stem cell research and personalized medicine and loved explaining their basics to responsive audiences.

Leo died in 2007. Two years later, Florence met and entered into a loving relationship with a kind, intelligent Cape Coral widower, David Friedlander. He had extraordinary people skills and tech abilities to match. Thanks to David, Florence’s presentations now included PowerPoint slides, which he projected while she spoke. Each of the two brought out the best in the other. Though David passed away just five years after they met, Florence continued to share a warm relationship with his family. At the end of 2014, Florence sold her home and moved into an independent living apartment at Vi at Bentley Village.

With growing short-term memory loss, Florence was diagnosed at age 94 with Alzheimer’s Disease. In early 2020, she moved into the assisted living residence at Bentley Village. Despite episodes of confusion, she remained socially appropriate, politically aware, and able to express clearly her unwavering opinions about current events. Thankfully, she never lost her awareness of exactly who her son, daughter, or grandchildren were.

Devoted to her family, Florence took pride in her children, Mark (Charlotte Smith) Levin and Nancy Levin (David) Rudinger, and her cherished grandchildren, Kenneth Rudinger and Rachel Rudinger. She is also survived by her niece, Hilarie Levion (Barry) Katz; nephews, Martin (Meg Osman) Levion, Jim (Deirdre Furlong) Pullman, Seth (Rachel Saunders-) Pullman, David (Karen Peterson) Pullman, and Ronald (Ann Weisman) Samanowitz; French cousins, Anita and Alain Hausser, and Frank and Thierry Hausser; and many treasured friends. In Naples during her last few years, she was greatly supported by Iris Bland, Nina and Moises Levy, Sandy Sahli, and Lily Stecha.

In addition to Marcel and Bertha, Leo, and David, Florence was predeceased by her sister, Harriet Levion Pullman; brother, Leon Levion; sisters-in-law, Thelma Levin Samanowitz and Diana Levin Ludin; cousins, Helene Eichenbaum Herzbrun, and Sylvain and Lucien Hausser; and niece, Beth Levion.

Later in life, Florence recognized and appreciated how fortunate she was in all that she had. One of her greatest pleasures was that her grandchildren shared her love of science and pursued careers in scientific fields. A book that particularly inspired her was The Language of Life: DNA and the Revolution in Personalized Medicine, by Francis Collins. She was also in awe of certain poems and loved the opening lines of “Auguries of Innocence,” by William Blake:  To see a World in a Grain of Sand / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower / Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand / And Eternity in an hour.

In her seven years at Vi at Bentley Village, Florence was grateful for the kind care and support of many staff members. Her family would like to thank the caregivers in the assisted living residence and skilled nursing facility for their tireless care of and compassion toward Florence.

All services were private.

Those wishing to make a donation in Florence’s name may send a check to the Neural Stem Cell Institute (Alzheimer’s research program), One Discovery Drive, Rensselaer, NY 12144. Their web address is www.neuralsci.org.

 

 

 

 

 


 

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